The travel classifieds at Journeywoman.com continue to tempt and
tease me. I sit at my computer and dream about all the great experiences
being offered and wonder how to make time for some of these wonderful
goodies. This Fall I finally did it; following my heart to Italy
I took part in Il
Chiostro's week-long photography workshop in Venice. What an
train from Florence pulled into the Santa Lucia Station
located smack dab in the center of town. As I stepped out
into the sunshine my first glimpse of Venice exceeded everything
I had expected. Here, playing itself out in front of me
was an absolutely magical water ballet. As far as the eye
could see were boats of every size and description, crisscrossing
the canals, transporting people and products in every possible
direction. There were no traffic lights, no screeching of
tires nor the ugly din of car horns. And, what all my guidebooks
had said about Venice was true -- the light here is more
beautiful than in any other place in the world. What an
incredible environment to practice my photography!
convent in a wonderful Italian neighbourhood...
Mironti and Michael Mele, the amiable directors of Il Chiostro
had prepared pupils with concise written directions on how
to get to the school's accommodation. Though a novice to
Venice I had little trouble finding the Linea 82 vaporetto
(water bus) and hopped aboard, ticket in hand, ready to
count off the four stops that would mean I had arrived at
the correct spot. True to prior instructions Michael was
waiting for students as they got off the boat and led us
on a five-minute walk to our academic home for the next
week. The Convent Ciliota is a newly refurbished and charming
convent-cum-small-hotel located in a likable little neighbourhood
circling Campo Santo Stefano. I won't easily forget the
cafés in that square, especially the corner shop
that served the creamy gelato -- my favorite blend of limone
e cioccolato. Or the internet café that served Italian
red wine "to go" in clear plastic cups.
was our classroom...
Instruction was held
in a deconsecrated chapel of the convent and that's where
I met my teacher, Pam Parlapiano, an Italian New Yorker.
I'll always remember her as "she of bright red lipstick
and a heart of gold". My eleven classmates were there
as well -- a most interesting mix of genders, cultures,
ages and picture-taking ability. I needn't have worried
about my lack of photography expertise -- there were others
at my basic level and we, beginners, were offered enormous
support by the more experienced workshop participants.
day we all spent an informal hour of instruction with Pam.
Her classes were far less about "f-stops" and
shutter speeds and much more about capturing an emotion
and telling a story with each slide. Over and over I heard
her say, "If you have to explain what's happening in
your image, then you haven't done your job properly."
Pam had a wonderful way of nurturing your creativity at
the same time as never accepting second best.
chose our subjects...
workshop participant was required to choose a focus for
the week and after our hour of instruction we fanned out
on our own to capture Venetian images that fit our particular
motif. Themes ranged from 'Good Morning Venice' to 'Elderly
Italian Couples' to 'Divas of Venice.' Each evening our
film was developed for us and each morning it was critiqued.
Our goal was to produce, in that week , 24 'best' shots
to present in a class slide show. If we needed individual
hands-on help from our instructor, Pam made appointments
to meet us outside in the square and showed us how a particular
photo could be taken.
travel and learn experience...
learned that the word "ghetto" originated in Venice,
I decided to make this Italian Jewish ghetto and the
people living within it's boundaries my theme. Perhaps
I could learn more about this historic place through
the eye of my camera. That choice meant five separate
days of 40 minute rides on the vaporetto to reach my
destination, then much time negotiating the security
that exists in this section of the city. At first I
was met with great suspicion. Why was I taking all those
photos of the buildings? Why was I hanging around in
the square? No, I couldn't take pictures in the synagogue!